Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Season Ended?



Lou the foxhound upset at the end of the season. He barely noticed it was here!

He's practicing with his Christmas Antlers. Takes a few weeks  of breaking in every year to get them to stay on long enough for the holiday picture.

It was almost the season without fly fishing. 

I live three hours south of "the trout band" of cool water. The streams were largely open this year. The campgrounds ... not so much. Michigan delayed opening the public campgrounds this year by locking the gates and ... more decisively ... the latrines. 

Social isolation on the streams - fine. In the facilities? Not so much.

The June 22nd campground opening allowed the dash of campers for the 4th of July. The campgrounds remained packed all summer by the hordes of covid refugees seeking some sort of recreational comfort. 


I've neighbors who purchased a new Airstream Bambi just for this summer. Yes, I have my eye on it for when the novelty wears off. Hellooooo trout trailer.

 Being officially old (my daughter's appraisal and our oldest son is now ... 40. No way to dispute it.) I need a good night's sleep to enjoy the "up north." I've a fine selection of tents and sleep like a bear out in the woods. 

I'm not a fan of "Generator Johnny" or the guy on the F-150 who has to lock the truck (honk honk) at 11:30 PM or the drunken brothers-in-law who have to argue about the Detroit Tigers at 3 AM. 

I was once in a party store in the up north buying cheese in a line with a Sheriff's  Deputy. I asked him how the gig was and if he worked year round. He said he was part of the regular staff and the gig was great until summer. When Memorial Day hit, all the folks from down south made the trip north and the first thing they packed was all their troubles. Domestic disputes were a common theme.

I am chasing new fish for the holidays. 


I'm driving to an island where I can hide from the covid and where the infection rate and positivity rate are far less than where I am now.  Also, they have Snook in the surf.

Stripping basket. Full-caged sealed-drag utility reel. Switch rod from Echo (saltwater suitable) in 9/10. Long-handed guide net.

Flies. ... Hmm. I have some clouser minnows. I'll be tying palmered-style shrimp. I may have to run over to Steve's Soft Hackle Journal and look at is barred surf perch soft hackle patterns.

I'll make up for a lost summer with a discovered fall.


 I am excited for 2021. 

Late July and early August will see me on the Madison. I've a place booked (roll over) from the 2020 season and my friend the wandering writer (and fly fishing equipment rep)  will be camped out for a couple weeks to bookend my trip.

The first part of my trip is paid for. The second part will cost me a case of gin and some steak-and-eggs fixings. 

I hope your 2021 plans include some story-worthy outings. I have a thing about hot coffee on the beach early in the morning when only the triathletes are making their 7 mile runs. I'm a slow moving obstacle in the dark just like the sea turtles making their way back into the surf. 

Spit snow here Sunday night. It was pretty serious about it, too. First sleet/snow of the season. More to follow I'm sure.

So .. 2021 excursions? Any plans? I'm feeling NakNek in the fall.


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

This is the Way ?


This is the way.

Photo is from an expedition tot he Michigan U.P. this summer and yes, Michigan considers the area above to be a "marked trail". Takes a bit to see but there are blazes in paint on the trees. 

This being covid season direction is a little less sure than normal. I've been catching up on the Disney+ and the series _The Mandolorian_ after a writing buddy explained to me that the storytelling was simple and direct: Nick Adams set in space.

The protagonist frequently utters his "catch phrase" of : This is the Way.

I'll be damned, but; I think he is correct. There is a lot of parallel there and by all accounts the series is a smash for Disney.  Dog knows they could use the help. Who wants to be kissed by Snow White in a mask? 

Speaking of masks: wear one.It isn't a political statement but a statement of concern for those around you. 

Masks save lives. Other people's masks save yours.

I'm ready for the next twelve weeks of onslaught. Good thing I'm part hermit. Aren't all fly fishers? Solitary pursuits executed in social isolation often in the most beautiful parts of the world. 

On my death bed I'll not be wishing that there was one more cocktail party to attend. I'll be wishing I could of climbed down into one more valley.

So, covid. If I could have engineered a virus this good, they'd have made me a twenty-star general and let me sleep in the White House for an entire summer. (Lots to see in D.C.). Turns out, covid is sleeping in the White House. 

You can't wish trouble away. Most problems in life just don't "go away" with anything less than a shotgun and a $100 bill.

At left: part of my larder.

 I'm anticipating trouble in the delivery of fundamental supplies and services in the next 12 weeks. Where I am from, we always have a couple weeks of food on hand because wind, snow, tornado all can appear and and disrupt supplies. 

When you live most of an hour from a food store and your region is partial to extremes of weather (60 mph straight line winds are fine for the ranch house; but, the high tension lines do poorly.) , you know to prepare. Two of your neighbor's may show up on your doorstep for a few days with bad storms. It's something to take in stride.


I'm much more urbanized now though as you see, I take the isolation tango seriously. I hope you and yours have no need for such contingencies and we can all make large gifts to the local food banks when this is over.

How are we coping with covid in my little part of the world? We're tying flies.

Scotch old enough to vote is a fine rust-remover at the tying vise. 


Monday, November 9, 2020

The Beginning of the End

 Suntory Time!

The key line here is : For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

The Old Suntory is not available where I live. This is a blended whiskey (boo, hiss) which is satisfyingly floral and soft. No decent Noir detective would be caught dead (or alive) drinking this stuff.

Luckily, I'm all about noir but not in the detective line of work. 

It is a fine summer "scortch" and as we're having a long drawn-out fall of warm days and light sweater nights by the fire: this bottle is perfect.

Laphroaig isn't quite in the offing this year. I need a good hard evening frost and a fire in the woodstove to take a dram of of the peat-y and settle down with _August 1914_  which I try to read every second year or so. Last year I re-read _Anna Kerensky_. 

 I love that Count Vronsky's horse Frau Frau had large nostrils .... like Anna. Yep - a line from the book.

The news today: 

 A vaccine is being submitted for approval which has a 90+ % efficacy rate in clinical studies.

It is going to be a slog to get it into 250+ Million Americans. That is sort of the epidemiologist's "base number" for public health control. We have about 335 M people in the U.S. With a 90% efficacy rate, the anti-vax folks and those medically unable to tolerate the vaccine will benefit from the greater populations' induced immunity.


Now, there are things we don't know for certain. The studies look good but the argument for release is the difference between 99% certainty it won't give you "The Crimp" and 99.999% certainty it won't.

"The Crimp" is shorthand for viral-induced consequences of an unintended sort.


You will be able to take those fishing trips you've put off sometime into 2022. The process of getting people inoculated and adapting to a new-new reality will take a bit.

Monday Night Flies is up and running virtually. 

Last week featured a few friendly soft-hackles.

Above: the Purple and Slate. This has been good for me in winter waters. Not great -> but good.

Above: My own Grey Drake. Size 16 to size 8 these work for any spinner fall. Meh. 

Above: the Partridge and Gold. Works as a hendrickson when in #16. Works as everything else in #12.

I'm trying a clock tonight. In North Country parlance, clock is a beetle. My box is shy of beetles. I'm fine on ant but good classic beetles? Shy. I have a nice collection of crayon-grade foam beetles from a trip to Yellowstone waters. They work but lack any soft-hackle style.

Almost time to fill my glass and step into the virtual den.

Maybe I can fly in the fall.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The End of 2020


One of the highlights of 2020 was a pilgrimage by the Amber Liquid guys to the mouth of the Two-Hearted River on the shores of Lake Superior.

We were fortunate to encounter a break in covid-19 before today's big swing began.

Kevin is making chili because ... camping needs chili. Was it summer? Sure. Was Superior a cold blooded bear drowner? Yes.


I'm declaring an end to 2020. Frankly, I've had enough.

Monday night saw the resumption of our local Monday Night Flies group. We used Google Meet (free, encrypted end-to-end, easy access without passcode). Some nice flies were tied despite a little rust at the bench. 

The virtual fly tying really lightened my spirits and made me think I was doing something positive. I encourage any of you out there to get your buddies on-line and tie. It works out nicely.

I've got my photos of flies hooked up to the wrong user account at the moment. I'll get it sorted for the next post.

Time to get on with tying classics.

I'll say more later ....

We're back. Alert the trout.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

I Want My Hat Back

   Mobutu. He wasn't much for humanity; but, that's an awesome hat. It's the sort of hat that only a sociopath could wear with ease. It suits him.

I have a special hat I wear when on the water. I suspect you do as well. 

The brim keeps sun off my face and water from running down my neck. I've worn it too little this season. I've had about enough.

The rush up north -- where my trout live -- is about over. The locals are losing interest. It's time to do some serious camping again. 

It's time to put on the hat.

I'll pitch my tent near the water. Use the river's water for my morning coffee. I'll laugh at the brook trout who eagerly snatch my fly only to be returned to grow larger and more cautious.

I'll enjoy the feel of life at the end of my line and in the evening I'll enjoy a little scotch from my coffee cup.

Noblesse Oblige. If one knows, one must prepare. You are obliged to use the information you have for the good of your mates. I know things about the covid.

I also know my mates need time on the water.  Looks like it might be time to prepare for fall camp a little early.

I hope you get to wear you favorite hat a little more often in the months to come. 

I bet you all look dashing.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Big Two-Hearted River

My buddy Matt fishing the famed Two-Hearted River this past week.


That sums up the year to date here at the Amber Liquid Anglers' clubhouse. Probably sums up your year,too.

We took a socially-distancing camping trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula this past week. We each had our own tent/trailer/van. We socially distanced. We wore masks. It worked well enough.

The U.P. is a tough place to sight-read.The water was high as we arrived. The Two-Hearted itself came down eighteen inches while we were there.

These pictures represent some of our "lessons-learned."

Above: the Two-Hearted at Reed and Green bridge. It is lovely water -- once the river goes down. A great deal of tannin is present which makes wading a little uncertain. The bottom is hard and firm and wading is easy using ordinary caution.

Above: Lake Superior shoreline looking west near dusk. We camped at the Mouth of the Two-Hearted State Campground and found it easy enough to avoid other campers. I think I used about 125 sanitizer sheets while I was there. Superior having a surface temperature of sixty-four degrees did not attract a large number of swimmers, sunbathers, or aquasports enthusiasts. She kills a number of folks each summer who fall off their kayaks, go into the water, cramp, and drown.

Above: Paws in water.  One must experience the local waters for themselves. Superior can be refreshing on a bright eighty-nine degree day. Yes, fishing was tough in those conditions.

A typical U.P. road. Most of the roads are of this sort: dirt or sand running miles through forest without a break.. We covered a great deal of water and so roared down many miles of these. Keep an eye on the gas gauge. These are indeed the "boonies."

The Two-Hearted campground area suffered a massive forest fire a few years ago just as in Hemingway's day. The country near the lower end of the Two-Hearted is brutal. 

Obligatory tourist photos:

Two-Hearted (lite) on the Two-Hearted.

A river and some D.B. pointing to the sign instead of the water.

The North Country Trail and my friend Kevin making a short trip.

The Senator on the trial about one hundred feet above Lake Superior delighted to check messages thanks to Rogers in Canada. It was the only signal he could find for much of the trip.

The view from where The Senator stands in the above picture.

Those are two of our crew on the beach.

My crew beside a small unnamed lake. No masks as this is the "proof of life" photo. They worry about me sometimes.

A plaque to Hemingway at the Fox River (believed to be the actual river used in the Nick Adam's Stories).

That's my 8'  McKellip rod on a Steffen Bros. blank with a stacked leather grip and a Hardy Perfect which was indeed perfect.

The Fox is a mess, by the way. It is jungle fishing here on the east branch.

A typical U.P. hiking trail. Yep. That's the trail.

Above: The benefits of foraging in the right season. The general crop was almost ripe. Just mind the locals if you go picking.

The berry patch is never quite yours alone.

I hope your health is sound and the trout are happy to see you.

Prost. (My thanks to Larry Bell and company!).

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fall Trout and Fun!

Above, a nice 20+" brown all colored-up. Thick-bodied tank.

I did some end-of-season fishing this weekend. I had a blast. I was on unrestricted season flies-only water that is open year round. I did not rob the redds! There were a few pairs showing some interest but I suspect the mating dance has passed for most of the the browns. Fishing from the bank. 

At left, a real tail-walker rainbow. He made the album for his circus act.  Fought hard for a fellow only a little over twelve inches. Maybe fourteen. Maybe..

Another brown. Nice fish.

Brookie. Another good fighter! Went 17 inches.

A nice rainbow something like sixteen to eighteen inches all peppered-up. Stunning.
A hare's ear flymph in 16 : a favorite of the rainbows. This fly is "resting" after several fish. I believe this is a brown hen hackled fly. Note how well the teased hare's ear holds up.

Grouse and synthetic hare's ear wrapped in micro-wire . Quite difference from the natural above though I did wire wrap the the whole thing so there's that ...

A wire wrapped SLF Hare's ear in #11 after some serious use. This fly took eleven fish in an hour. Same fly. All species. It would drift through a fifteen to twenty foot deep pool on very little current and the fish would take. I'd wait. I'd wait. Then I'd smoothly take up tension allowing the fish to hook themselves. They'd dive for the deep and the hookset was performed without any sudden motion from me.

In this cold water, the stream bite was short and soft. I caught one fish on streamers but had tons of short takes. Using the soft-hackles allowed the fish to catch themselves!

I lost the above fly on the next fish electing to cutting the line rather than digging in the gullet. Meh. He had hammered the fly -- one of the few to do so -- and rather than the side-jaw hinge hook, he'd swallowed it. So, I spared him the rooting around.

I haven't had any extended time on the stream since September and the Driftless so I was thrilled at the three day outing here. Great time. Fished with some fly typing buddies from the Beer Grotto Monday night sessions.

Can't wait to go tomorrow night. It is consistently the highlight of my social interaction each week.

Soft hackles -- even tied in the clumsy fashion evident in my wire wrapped above  -- can save the day. As I show in this post, they can withstand serious abuse from fish after fish while continuing to perform.

I didn't take a single fish on the Hornberg. Disappointed. I did take three trout on the surface with a copper-hued trailing shuck CDC X-caddis fly. The trailing shuck business works for me (Thanks, Lauren!) and the fly performs well when drowned and pulled as a micro-streamer.

It was the soft-hackle fly which dominated the weekend, though.

There was a fair amount of scotch taken internally for strictly medicinal purposes once we left the stream. It helped restore the humor after hours in a cold breeze.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be grateful for a great pre-holiday weekend outing!